Empty promises & gullible voters — what a combo


Written by Aziz Hassan

Recollections & Reflections – A weekly column

IT didn’t make the front page of the newspaper but the item has wide significance within the context of politics in Malaysia.

There it was, a Penang MCA politician talking about how the state’s DAP-led government had failed to fulfill a promised made before the general election in 2008.

Why Penang MCA deputy chairman Datuk Tan Teik Cheng should be surprised that Penang chief minister Lim Guan Eng had failed to honour that pledge is in itself surprising because this concerns a matter that relates to jurisdiction, in this case federal jurisdiction, whereas Lim has powers only on matters of the state of Penang.

Someone should tell Tan to do a bit of thinking, to fully understand about control and territories before making a statement to question the failure of Lim, his party and the Penang government to honour an election promise.

It simply was a matter which no head of government of any state in Malaysia can deliver without the consent of the federal government and in this case, also a toll concessionaire, because it is a matter under the jurisdiction of Putrajaya, the seat of Malaysia’s federal power.

When he spoke a week ago, Tan was referring to Lim’s promise to abolish the Sungai Nyior toll collection.

If indeed Lim had categorically promised so, it was an empty promise which he would never have been able to deliver – unless his party gains control of the federal government.

Since the opposition has yet to win enough seats to kick out Barisan Nasional from Putrajaya, the undisputed conclusion is that that promise was simply talk in thin air, which means that people who reside in Penang who use that toll road have been hoodwinked.

One is immediately reminded of the many pledges outlined in the Pakatan Rakyat manifesto for the 2008 general election that have not been fulfilled until today, especially the ones which involve huge allocations.

One was on the promise to provide free education right up to university level.

When the failure to honour this was highlighted, those who obviously were for Pakatan responded to say that this would only be possible if Pakatan was in control of the federal government.

The thing about an election manifesto is that it is good only for the five-year term and if you didn’t contest enough seats to win control of the country, how could that promised be included in the manifesto? This translates into a clear form of manipulation and a downright lie.

The Pakatan manifesto also promised financial goodies to the people, some of which have also not been honoured and we are talking about eight long years now.

Many Malaysians have been very critical of the how the Barisan Nasional government does things but without also scrutinising how the opposition governs the states under their control and whether or not they have been true to their words.

People who are smart and discerning enough will tell you that promises in an election manifesto which involves big money must be taken with a pinch of salt.

Freebies come with a price and are never truly free. What this means is that something has to give and usually it will be financed by taxpayers’ money, your money and my money. Someone has to pay for all the freebies.

In western democracies politicians and political parties that fail to honour their words will not last more than one term but while Malaysians continue to gripe, moan and groan about the misdeeds and empty promises of their politicians, they have yet to prove that they too will not be forgiving of politicians who fail to perform.

The power is in their hands but they have thus far failed to use that to good effect and yet will never blame themselves for the ills that affect this country.

Better take a good look in the mirror.



About the author

Aziz Hassan

A journalist since July 1976 with both the English and Malaya press and was with two newspaper groups before The Mole. Does corporate report-writing and translation in his free time. Currently also a contributing weekly rugby columnist for the New Straits Times.